>This morning the apostles, Peter to Judas, received their marching orders. In the scripture passage from Matthew, Jesus takes the twelve aside and gives them specific instructions for their ministry out in the world. They are to proclaim the good news and perform works of God for the lost sheep of Israel – this is in line with his comments to the Pharisees earlier, when they asked why he dined with people on the edges of society, that the healthy have no need of healing, but the sick.
Imagine a conversation on a road somewhere in Judea. Suppose you’re a tax collector, a leper, a woman, a woman of ill repute, a slave and you’re sitting outside the town walls hoping for a crust of bread, a kind word, maybe even a coin – even the Emperor’s coin. How strange would it be for you to be approached by a stranger who calls you friend and offers you food and drink, starts to tell you about the Kingdom of Heaven? Come to think of it, what if you were the stranger and charged with starting that dialogue?
This is unlike anything you’ve done or witnessed before. There’s something new, something revolutionary here.
Imagine the emotions roiling through you.
How would you respond to such a conversation?
How would you begin such a conversation?
I don’t know about you, but I’d start by saying, “Hello.” It’s usually the safest way to begin, isn’t it?
The conversation could start with the weather, how someone is doing, and eventually it comes round to this different and bold vision of how the world should be, the vision of Jesus of Nazareth. Maybe after a few moments of conversation, if you’re the person outside the walls, you start to think, perhaps get excited about what you’re hearing and ask to hear more. Or, if you’re the apostle sent on a mission, you begin to relax and realize that evangelism doesn’t have to be heavy-handed or frightening, or all or nothing, but a gradual, informal give and take of ideas. Soon it becomes natural.
I’m not suggesting that accepting the great commission to proclaim the Gospel and live it out is easy. On the contrary; I believe it’s just as difficult now in our post-modern society as it was in the first century.
How do we impart a message of unconditional love and acceptance, of mutual respect for people and respect for all of creation?
Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you? That’s one way.
Wake every morning and think of being generous with your heart and resources as you are able. These little seeds of optimism and love will take root, just as the twelve apostles’ work took root and continues growing today.
Go in peace,